Don’t Hire the Best People, Hire the Right People

How Startup Institute is training those “right” people.

As entrepreneurs, we don’t always have the time to focus on the bigger picture, which is why something as crucial as company culture can seem so elusive. Hiring good people is easy, hiring people that are right for your company and team is harder. And that’s not just personality fit; it’s complementary strengths and weaknesses, and being suited for the specific challenges that will come along in your startup.

That’s where Startup Institute comes in. They’re a career accelerator for people who want to work at startups. Hiring at a startup is hard, but so is landing a job at one, so Startup Institute launched in 2012 to bridge that divide. They’re now in New York, London, Chicago, Boston, and Berlin.

Startup Institute is not a classroom learning experience, it’s a simulation. On the first day, students are thrown into a startup environment with the tools they need to hit the ground running. Their tracks cover key startup needs; design, development, marketing, and sales.

Just like at a startup where resources and bandwidth for training are limited, you need to be a self-starter to succeed at Startup Institute. “You have to figure out where the quickest place is to add value and take control of your own growth.” says co-founder Shaun Johnson.

They stress that businesses are more than technical talent — and students should pursue the career path that they’re best at — setting them apart from many other startup training organizations that only focus on coding. It also gives their graduates the well-rounded skill set that’s so coveted at startups; the ability to help out wherever something needs to get done.

Lastly, Startup Institute will help students identify the type of team they want to be on and problem they want to address, helping to ensure happiness wherever they land.

Building a team is one of the most difficult things about being a founder, and Johnson’s main piece of advice is to avoid adopting corporate principles. Your startup is new and disruptive, so past experience isn’t the most important factor. Instead, give them an opportunity to do a tangible piece of work to get a sense for what they can do and how they think. Spend enough time with the person that they drop the interview act, so you can make a decision about the person in front of you, not the one on paper.

The fall programs are just about to start across all locations, with a new set of graduates around early December. Startup Institute offers many opportunities for companies to meet students, sign up here to learn more about hiring.


As a part of Orrick’s Emerging Companies practice, the TOTAL ACCESS event series provides entrepreneurs business, tactical, and legal education through complimentary panels and seminars. Presented by experienced industry CEOs, venture capitalists and Orrick lawyers, TOTAL ACCESS offers insights on cutting-edge issues and an opportunity to network with leading professionals.

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